Research

Natural variation in cell signalling and its effect on health
Cell signalling pathways regulate the activity of cells, allowing them to communicate with other cells and respond to the environment. Mutations that abolish the function of genes in cell signalling pathways are often detrimental to the animal, and underlie many human diseases. Despite this, evolutionary studies have shown that there are adaptive genetic differences in cell signalling pathway genes. How do these mutations affect cell signalling? What type of changes underlie beneficial mutations as opposed to those that cause disease?

I use natural variants in Insulin signalling pathway genes to understand how adaptive changes in cell signalling affect the animal and its survival. Insulin signalling regulates growth, metabolism and aging in animals, and studies from humans and model organisms suggest that differences in Insulin signalling levels have consequences on adult survival and health. I use tools from population genetics, single-cell level analysis of signal transduction, metabolism and developmental biology to understand natural differences in Insulin signalling levels and its effect on health.

Evolution of organ size across species
My PhD thesis focused on how organ size is established and altered during evolution using the fruit fly ovary as a model. I conducted comparative developmental analysis between Drosophila melanogaster subgroup species and identified the cell type that is responsible for differences in the functional size of the ovary (Sarikaya et al., 2012). To understand how organ size is established, I studied the role of Hippo signalling in three major cell types of the larval ovary and identified cell-type specific signaling pathway interactions (Sarikaya and Extavour, 2015). Lastly, I studied how ecology influences the evolution of the ovary in Hawaiian Drosophila, and found that shifts in egg laying substrate influence fecundity and that these changes occur through the same developmental mechanism (Sarikaya et al., in prep).

Placental development in mice
The placenta is a unique organ in mammalian animals connecting the developing embryo to the mother, and its development begins when the two precursor tissues, chorion and allantois, fuse during early development of the embryo. During my Master’s thesis, I used tissue culture and the mouse model to investigate the genetic mechanisms that regulate placental development. I identified that mouse plancental stem cell lines showed Notch signalling activity, similar to humans (Sarikaya and Jerome-Majewska, 2012). In addition, I tested protocols for an ex vivo model for mouse plancental development, which served as the basis for a study that found a previously-unknown role of the allantois in mantaining structural cell types in the chorion (Hou et al., 2016).

Selected Publications
Sarikaya DP and Extavour CG. The Hippo pathway regulates homeostatic growth of stem cell niche precursors in the Drosophila ovary. 2015. PLOS Genetics 11: e1004962.
Sarikaya DP, Belay AA, Ahuja A, Dorta A, Green DA, Extavour CG. The roles of cell size and cell number in determining ovariole number in Drosophila. 2011. Dev. Biol. 363: 279-289.
Hou W, Sarikaya DP, Jerome-Majewska LA. Ex vivo culture of pre-placental tissues reveals that the allantois is required for maintained expression of Gcm1 and Tpbpa. 2016. Placenta 47: 12-23.
Sarikaya DP, Jerome-Majewska LA. Notch1 and the activated NOTCH1 intracellular domain are expressed in differentiated trophoblast cells. 2011. Cell Biol. Int. 35: 443-447.

Service

Leadership
Early Career Scientist Representative to the Board of GSA
As a representative to the board of the Genetics Society of America (GSA), I advocate on behalf of early career scientists to create programs and resources that will allow students/postdocs to better explore their interests and achieve their career goals.

Co-chair of Career Development Subcommittee at GSA
Many trainees feel uncertain about their future and are not sure how to leverage their PhD. As co-chair of the Early Career Scientist Career Development Subcommittee at the Genetics Society of America. I am part of a dynamic team that is bringing forward stories from people of various backgrounds through the blog series Decoding Life, including careers in science communication, law, and industry.

Organizing member of WiLD
At UC Davis, I am an organizing member of the Women in Life sciences in Davis (WiLD) where we tackle issues around broadening the participation of women in science, as well as general issues around academic training.

During graduate school, I served as an executive organizer for the Graduate student Canadian Club and departmental representative for the Graduate Student Council at Harvard University.

Outreach
Art classes on insect morphology
Painting and learning art is one of my main hobbies, and I enjoy finding ways to bring art into science communication. The above image is from an outreach event I held at Franklin elementary school art class along with artist Gary Tucker to teach students about insect diversity.

About

I am a biologist who specializes in how cells transmit and process information. My current research focuses on how individual differences in key biological pathways affect health outcomes. I completed my PhD in 2015 from the Extavour lab at Harvard University, and am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Begun and Albeck labs at UC Davis.

My work is highly interdisciplinary, and I bring as many perspectives as I can, either through learning new techniques or by collaboration. I've collaborated with entomologists, systematists, computational biologists, and engineers, and I am happiest (and most productive) when I am able to serve as a bridge between different fields. My work has been supported by NSERC, FRSQ, NSF, and NIH.

I grew up between Canada, Turkey, Japan and the US. While family members assumed I'd pursue a career in "international business" (anyone knows what that means?), I preferred pondering about cells and animals. I like to paint and enjoy immersing myself in different cultures, traveling and learning new languages; which could explain why I often work across different disciplines.

Contact: dpsarikaya AT ucdavis.edu / Twitter

Abbreviated CV (Download Full CV here)
Education
Harvard University (PhD, 2009-2015)
McGill University (MS, 2007-2009)
University of Toronto, (BS, 2004-2007)
Awards and Funding
2018. University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship
2018. NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship
2015. Fonds de la recherce en sande du Quebec, Postdoctoral Fellowship
2013. Fonds de la recherce en sande du Quebec, Doctoral Training Fellowship
2012. NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
2011. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Post-graduate Scholarship

News


May 15, 2018 I was appointed as the Early Career Scientist Advisor to the GSA Board.
April 30, 2018 - I discussed art-science outreach with the Davis Arts Blog.
Feb 23, 2018 - I was interviewed for the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences blog on receiving the UC President's Fellowship!
Jan 9, 2018 - My Decoding Life interview with start up VP Nigel Delaney was published.
Oct 18, 2017 - My Decoding Life interview with patent lawyer Chris Cherry was published.
Aug 23, 2017 - My Decoding Life interview with FlySorter founder Dave Zucker was published.
Aug 9, 2017 - My Decoding Life interview with science rapper Tom McFadden was published.
July 26, 2017 - My Decoding Life interview with Monsanto data scientist Young Wha Lee was published.
June 2, 2017 - I was featured in the Genes to Genomes blog for my work through the GSA Early Career Scientist Leadership program.

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